Chris Grayling, Secretary of State for Transport, has granted Transport for Greater Manchester legal powers to progress its plans for a £350m Metrolink extension to Trafford Park.
Work on the 3.4-mile line could begin this winter, with a target of it being operational by 2020/2021.
TfGM has been working on plans for the Trafford Park line for a number of years, and will shortly appoint a contractor.
Trafford Park itself is the largest major employment zone in Greater Manchester outside the city centre and is home to more than 1,300 businesses and 33,000 jobs.
The Trafford Park line will increase the size of the Metrolink network to more than 66 miles, served by 99 stops. The extension will branch off from the existing Pomona stop and call at six new tram stops at destinations including Wharfside, near to Old Trafford football stadium, the Imperial War Museum, business areas through the industrial park and visitor destinations such as Eventcity and the intu Trafford Centre.
The majority of the new route is not on roads to ensure faster, more reliable journey times.
The £350m funding package to build the line has already been secured by Greater Manchester Combined Authority through the ‘earn back’ funding arrangement as part of the Greater Manchester devolution deal.
TfGM consulted on plans for the new Trafford Park line during a 12-week public consultation in summer 2014, with 89% of comments in favour. An independent inspector presided over a public inquiry into the proposals in 2015.
Trafford Council leader, Cllr Sean Anstee, said: “This is great news for Trafford and the Greater Manchester area. It will bring countless opportunities for further investment in the borough and across the region.
“Excellent transport links are vital to make Greater Manchester as attractive as possible for businesses to establish themselves here and, with them, more jobs and apprenticeship opportunities.
“Trafford Council and Greater Manchester Combined Authority has worked closely with TfGM to enable this proposal to come to fruition and I want to thank those whose hard work and effort has managed to achieve this wonderful opportunity for the borough.”
Metrolink has tripled in size in recent years as part of a £1.5bn expansion, making it the largest light rail network in the UK.